By Steve Silverman
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Manny Pacquiao is at the crossroads of his career.
He has a chance to get things going back in the right direction if he can register a decisive victory over Brandon Rios when the two battle in Macau, China, on Saturday.
Pacquiao still has dreams and goals in boxing. It appeared his career had been sent to dreamland when he was knocked unconscious by Juan Manuel Marquez last December, but Pacquiao decided to keep his career moving forward.
A lot of critics might decry the 34-year-old Pacquiao for getting back in the ring after suffering such a brutal knockout, but he was winning the fight at the time he got hit with the best punch of Marquez’s career.
Marquez had knocked Pacquiao down early with a hard punch, but Pacquiao got up and turned the fight around. Not only did he register his own knockdown of Marquez, but he was pounding his opponent with hard punches.
It looked like Pacquiao was going to be able to stop Marquez, who was bloody and battered. Pacquiao got careless, rushed in and got hit square on the chin with a punch he never saw.
Rios does not have the same kind of explosive punching power that Marquez did. Rios is a tough guy who will throw combinations, but when it comes to landing one devastating punch, he does not belong in a class with Marquez.
Pacquiao knows this and that should give him some security. He can beat Rios to the punch. Rios will get in his share of shots because he is always advancing forward and is more than willing to take one or two himself, but he is not tricky. Pacquiao should be able to figure out Rios by the end of the second round.
The histrionics that went on this week between Pacquiao’s trainer, Freddie Roach, and Rios’ seconds — Alex Ariza and Robert Garcia — were quite a sideshow. It was an ugly scene as Roach went to claim the gym that the two fighters were sharing in China, and a near melee broke out.
I’m not saying that this confrontation was made up, but Bob Arum has made sure that it got the publicity it needed to drum up interest in the pay-per-view fight.
It’s doubtful that Pacquiao will need the motivation of his Parkinson’s-afflicted coach getting attacked by his opponent’s crew to help him, but it is there if he wants it.
Pacquiao should be able to register a one-sided victory here. It could be a decision or a stoppage. If he loses or struggles to win, that will almost certainly be the end of Pacquiao’s career.
However, if he has a solid victory, he should be in line for a fifth fight with Marquez, and then close his career with the long-awaited fight with Floyd Mayweather Jr.
That fight should have been made several years ago, but it never happened. If Pacquiao can overwhelm Rios and get revenge against Marquez, then boxing can have the fight that it needs to capture the public’s attention.
That fight would happen late next year or early in 2015, and it would be worth the wait.
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